United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
TERESA H. SMITH, Plaintiff,
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Defendant.
W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
dispute has been festering for more than a decade. Before
filing this federal lawsuit, Plaintiff Teresa H. Smith, a
former longtime employee of the U.S. Postal Service, had been
seeking redress through the federal administrative complaint
process since 2007, when she first filed a formal complaint
accusing the agency of discriminating against her on the
basis of a disability. That process concluded in July 2017,
when the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's
("EEOCss") Office of Federal Operations
("OFO") denied her appeal of the agency's final
order and issued her a right-to-sue letter.
Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan, the defendant in this
civil action, argues Ms. Smith's suit is time-barred. I
agree. Ms. Smith filed her action two weeks too late and has
not offered any legitimate reasons for equitably estopping
Ms. Brennan from enforcing the time limit. I am therefore
granting the defense's Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, for Summary Judgment, which I am treating as a
motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure.
Smith worked for the Postal Service for 20 years, from July
1988 until her resignation in October 2008. See
Smith Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 16-1. In February 2007, she
filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO")
complaint alleging that the agency had denied her application
for a position as a sales, services, and distribution
associate, even though she had been the only bidder and was
qualified for the job. Feb. 2007 EEO Compl., ECF No. 12-3. She
accused the agency of discriminating against her because of
her plantar fascistic, a condition that limited her ability
to stand or walk. See id.; Smith Decl. ¶ 4.
proceedings before an EEOC administrative judge, the agency
argued that Ms. Smith did not meet the definition of an
"individual with a disability" and was not
"qualified" for relief under the Rehabilitation
Act; that the agency had made good-faith efforts to
accommodate her; and that there were legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reasons for all of the challenged actions.
See 2007 USPS Motion 6-14, ECF No. 12-4. The
administrative judge, granting the agencyss motion for a
decision without a hearing, concluded Ms. Smith's
limitations associated with her plantar fascistic were not
severe enough to constitute a "disability" under
the Rehabilitation Act. See March 2008 AJ Decision
10-11, ECF No. 12-5. He also concluded that the agency's
actions did not support a claim of reprisa1 because Ms. Smith
could not establish that its stated reasons were pretextual..
See Id. at 11. The agency soon afterward issued a
final order adopting the administrative judge's findings.
See June 2012 OFO Order 2, ECF No. 12-6.
Smith appealed the agency's final order to the OFO.
See id. at 1. In a June 2012 order, the OFO vacated
the agency's order, concluding that it had "failed
to develop an adequate evidentiary record" to support an
assessment of whether Ms. Smith was "substantially
limited in a major life activity because of her plantar
fa(s]ciitis." See Id. at 4-6. The OFO remanded
the complaint back to the agency with instructions to
complete a supplemental investigation. See Id. at 6.
September 2015, after a supplemental investigation, the EEOC
administrative judge again granted the agency's motion
for a decision without a hearing. Sept. 2015 AJ Order, ECF
No. 12-10. As before, the administrative judge concluded Ms.
Smith had failed to establish that she was a "person
with a disability." Id. at 10. He determined
that Ms. Smith did have a permanent impairment but that
"the restrictions it causes are not so severe that she
is unable to perform any major life activity that the average
person in the general population can perform."
Id. Likewise, the administrative judge concluded
that she had once again failed to establish that the
agency's stated reasons for cancelling her bid for the
position she sought were pretextual.. See Id. at 12.
The agency adopted the administrative judge's decision,
as it had seven years earlier. See July 2017 OFO
Order 1, ECF No. 1-1.
time, the OFO affirmed the agency's final order,
concluding "that the AJ correctly determined that the
preponderance of the evidence did not establish that [Ms.
Smith] was discriminated against by the Agency as
alleged." Id. The OFO enclosed along with its
decision a "Statement of Rights - On Appeal," which
outlined Ms. Smith's legal options in response to the
decision. See Id. at 3. Following a discussion of
her right to ask the OFO to reconsider its decision, the
statement noted: "You have a right to file a civil
action in an appropriate United States District Court within
ninety (90) calendar days from the date that you receive this
OFO's decision is dated July 25, 2017. See Id.
at 4. Ms. Smith, who is representing herself in this suit,
filed her Complaint in this Court on November 9, 2017.
See Compl., ECF No.
section of her Complaint marked "Statement of
Claim" reads in full:
I was wrongfully denied a position that entitled me to a
different work shift. I was fully qualified to perform the
duties of the job because I was working the exact same
position. I had previously filed an EEO in 8-06. The position
I applied for was in 11-06. I was informed by the bid clerk I
was the only successful bidder and the Postmaster informed
her not to notified [sic] me I was awarded the position.
6. The civil cover sheet identifies her claim as one for
retaliation under Title VII. See ECF No. 1-3.
General Megan J. Brennan, the named defendant in this suit,
filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary
Judgment. ECF No. 12. The accompanying memorandum, which
construes Ms. Smith's claim as a disability-based
discrimination claim under the Rehabilitation Act,
see Def.'s Mem. 10, ECF No. 12-1, urges the
Court to dismiss this lawsuit as untimely, see Id.
at 7-9. It further argues that Ms. Smith's claim fails
because she cannot demonstrate that she is a qualified
individual with a disability. See Id. at 10-13.
parties have fully briefed the motion. See ECF
Nos. 12-1, 16, 252 28. No hearing is
required. See Loc. R. 105.6.
General Brennan has styled her motion as a Motion to Dismiss
or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which governs
motions to dismiss, authorizes parties in a civil action to
seek the dismissal of a claim or complaint on the grounds
that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Tucker v.
Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC, 83 F.Supp.3d 635,
647-48, (D. Md. 2015). This rule's purpose "is to
test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve
contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). To
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain "a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2),
and must state "a plausible claim for relief,"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
reviewing a motion to dismiss, "[t]he court may consider
documents attached to the complain,, as well as documents
attached to the motion to dismiss, if they are integral to
the complaint and their authenticity is not disputed."
Sposato v. First Mariner Bank, No. CCB-12- 1569,
2013 WL 1308582, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 28, 2013); see also
CACI Int'l v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co.,566 F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009). However, if the Court
considers matters outside the pleadings, the Court must treat
the motion as a motion for summary judgment under ...